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Ventura County

County's Donors Heed Appeal for United Way Funds


The United Way's annual fund-raising campaign in Ventura County is slightly ahead of last year's pace despite initial fears that a bad economy and a flurry of donations to Sept. 11 funds might limit gifts to local charities.

The agency has received $1.2 million in pledges and donations from companies and individuals throughout the county, said David Smith, president of the United Way of Ventura County. The amount is about $300,000 more than had been tallied by this time last year.

"At this point what we think we are seeing is people recognizing the importance of giving locally beyond what they have given to the September fund," Smith said.

"We are hopeful that the spirit [will continue] throughout the campaign."

The campaign, which was launched Sept. 28, will run until mid-January.

This year, the agency set a conservative goal of $5 million for Ventura County, Smith said, citing downturns in the local and national economies.

There were also worries that an outpouring of giving to several national fund-raising efforts to benefit the victims of the terrorist attacks might have exhausted local charity sources.

In the first few weeks after the attacks, various benefits and funds--most notably the Red Cross--raised $1.2 billion from donors nationwide.

About 500 companies are participating in the United Way's local fund-raising drive, according to the agency. They include Thousand Oaks-based WellPoint Health Networks, where the campaign totaled $595,000. At Oxnard's Haas Automation, the effort raised $261,000. And education and government employees have donated $58,500.

The funds raised locally are distributed among 52 nonprofit organizations in the county that provide social services to youth, the elderly, the poor and the homeless.

They include seven Boys & Girls clubs, Food Share, El Concilio del Condado de Ventura and the American Cancer Society.

United Way of Ventura County can be reached at 485-6288.

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